W.E. – Roman Fireworks

Fireworks were exploding, sending joy and excitement over the city, illuminating the sky with flashes of red, purple, blue, silver and gold. Pulsating stars rejoiced, first driven upward on a string, then dancing round and round enthusiastically in circles, until they fell gracefully towards the ground in a velvet soft, orderly pattern. Spectators were not given long to catch their breath: From the ground emerged thunderous repeaters, Roman Candles, and Jumping Jacks. What a blast it was, which lasted 20 minutes on the dot; taking the townspeople with storm for its duration and then dying out with fumes of smoke from spent firecrackers and rockets hanging in the air.

Mrs. Rhodes, whose carpenter had been working on her coffin for the past three years, had seen it all before. She smiled smugly the instant the fireworks started, at which point her long hand with the purple prolific blood vessels pulled open her heavy drapes. All that she needed was an opening large enough to give room for her head. As she bent forward to look out from her 5th floor apartment, she noticed that her window was covered with dew, so that the spectacle emerging from the museum park could not be seen nearly as clearly as one might hope and expect.

At 91, she had learned to economize with her energy, and so she did not rush to wipe the dew off the glass. Instead, she grabbed the large bowl of porridge she had just prepared for dinner and placed it in front of the window. The porridge slowly but surely burned the dew into droplets that rolled off the glass, while the cold window returned the favor by cooling the porridge down to a temperature Mrs. Rhodes’ tongue could endure.

The fireworks illuminated her mind. How many years ago was it that she and a boyfriend had gone to the museum park for a late springtime picnic? She could clearly remember how she had unfolded a large blanket for them to lie on, while he went to fetch them ice cold lemonade from the outdoor cafe. 65 years or so it must have been. She and that boy didn’t last the summer, but then came along the gentleman whom she had married the following year – 52 joyous years they’d had together.

Having eaten about half of the porridge, she noticed that her neck was getting a little bit sore from the awkward position. She could easily have opened the drapes further, but that would have left her apartment exposed to any residents across the street. Not that she had anything to hide, everything was tidy and clean as always, but she wanted to watch the annual fireworks spectacle without being seen by others. “Enough already!” she said gently to herself as she withdrew from the window, capably balancing the large bowl in her left hand while closing the curtains with the other.

She sat down on her favorite sofa, essentially a love seat neatly decorated with carved woodworks and solid fabric. It was firm and not smooth to sit on, and so it kept her upright and alert. Almost the entire wall in front of her was covered by a huge collage, which presented Rome’s development over the centuries. This had been her life’s work, commenced on the 1st anniversary of her husband’s death and finished only three years ago, at which time the work on her coffin had commenced.

What a city it was! The crowds had welcomed the soldiers of the empire, as they returned from battles far away, spearheaded by a giant lion inside a cage; it was placed on a tram with wheels, dragged by four skinny slaves. Downfall, renaissance, the basilica of Santa Maria, the modern epoch – she had tried to capture it all with clippings, paintings, photos, and embroidery on her collage. Too bad there were few visitors to admire that any longer.

“I love Rome, the only place I’ll ever need!” she said to herself while wondering whether she’d still be alive to watch the fireworks next year.

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